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Betting Strategy: How to Bet NFL Underdogs

NFL Underdogs Betting

When it comes to sports betting, especially for NFL picks, there are two teams on the field. One team is going to be stronger than the other. That team is the favorite because they are favored to win. The other squad that may not be as good is called the underdog.

Betting underdogs can be profitable in certain cases. Below, we’ll explain how to bet NFL underdogs whether it’s a Monday Night Football game, a Thursday nighter, a Sunday day game or the Super Bowl.

NFL Underdogs and the Point Spread

In order to even the betting field, oddsmakers – the people who set the odds so you can make your picks – give the underdog an advantage through the point spread. Let’s say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing the New Orleans Saints. NFL spread odds would look something like this:

  • Saints -7.5
  • Bucs +7.5

In this NFL betting scenario, the Saints are the favorite. In order for them to cover the spread, they would need to win by eight points or more. Conversely, the Bucs would need to win outright or not lose by more than seven points to cover.

Most NFL bettors would see these odds and take New Orleans to cover because they assume that Drew Brees is going to do what he does best, and connect with every receiver he can. His accuracy is near perfect, so it would make sense for you to lean toward the favorite on this bet.

However, if a metaphorical wrench were to be thrown before the game, and Brees comes down with the flu, there is a strong possibility that he won’t play. In this case, a bet on Tampa Bay, aka the underdog, could prove to be very profitable. Since they only need to win the game straight up or not lose by more than seven points to cover, there is a strong chance that they’ll do exactly that.

Betting Value with Home Underdogs

There is some debate over home-field advantage and just how important it is when making your NFL betting picks. Here at Odds Shark, we believe that there is some worth in betting the lesser team at home on certain occasions. The value with home underdogs comes with digging deeper when handicapping their games by examining situational and motivational betting angles.


A team’s schedule is everything. Underdogs playing their second straight game at home are generally more comfortable and focused than in their previous game. They haven’t had to travel in nearly two weeks, meaning more time spent in their own home, in their own beds, without the stresses of being on the road. More importantly, they don’t have to worry about entering a different time zone.

Previous Loss

In a league where any team can win on any given day, sometimes how much energy a team has can be the deciding factor. In addition, these home dogs tend to be even more dangerous if they lost in front of their fans the week before. No team wants to be embarrassed in front of their home crowd twice in a row, especially in such a high-profile league.

No travel, combined with added motivation, makes home underdogs coming off a home loss extremely dangerous. An example would be good teams like the New England Patriots, who seem to have trouble losing two games in a row. Since 2001, when Tom Brady became the starting quarterback, the Pats have dominated their opponent coming off a defeat. They’ve only surrendered 12 games after a beating.

Considering they’ve won multiple Super Bowls, they are rarely given underdog status, no matter which team they’re up against. This doesn’t mean you should blindly back any home team coming off a loss, but you should do your homework and see what their record is when they’re playing on their own turf.

The Noise Factor when Facing a Division Rival

Familiarity breeds contempt, and that is clear when divisional rivals face each other in the NFL. Facing off two times a year every season, division foes tend to hate each other, and play tough physical games against one another. Furthermore, crowds really get into it and hiss their hearts out every time the rival touches the ball or scores. This is especially true late in the NFL season when the road favorite has something on the line, and the home dog has the opportunity to play spoiler.

Booing and chanting an opposing player’s name can be a huge distraction for the visiting team, leaving the home dog primed for victory. The underdog could pull off the upset and cover the spread, or win the game outright to win your moneyline bet, regardless of the talent discrepancy between the two teams.

Seattle is a great example of a divisional rivalry turning into an underdog win. CenturyLink Field is so loud that even top favorites have struggled when visiting the Seahawks. In 2013, the stadium earned the Guinness World Record for Loudest Roar at a Sports Stadium with 137.6 decibels. Noise can actually be solely responsible for ruining a great team and turning a bad team into a winner.

Betting Value with Road Underdogs

We just explained why you should back a home dog, and odds are you’ve been scared of NFL underdogs when they’re on the road. However, there is hidden value in taking a road dog sometimes. Let’s pretend the Kansas City Chiefs are facing off against the Los Angeles Rams. Moneyline odds would look something like so:

  • Rams -250
  • Chiefs +150

At betting sites, favorite odds always have a minus sign (-) in front of them. Underdog odds always have a plus sign (+) in front of them. In this case, we’ll say that LA is playing at home, making KC the visitor.

However, the Chiefs have been on a tear lately, crushing opponents. The Rams are also doing quite well but have found themselves with an injured star running back and a quarterback who is limping. Both are playing, but they can’t give their all.

Los Angeles is still the favorite, yet Kansas City is healthy and won its last game. In this case, you would look into betting on KC even though the Chiefs are the road dog.

Whether it’s a game between the worst team in the league and the best team, there is handicapping information available to help you make your bet. As long as you check out Odds Shark’s football pages when making your picks, you’ll know when it’s worth it to bet NFL underdogs.